“They took his daughter… so he’s taking them down.” No, this isn’t Taken. it’s Driven to Kill, not to be confused with Hard to Kill, the other Steven Seagal movie with “to kill” in the title (and hell, there are probably more that we don’t even know about). Seagal plays Ruslan (which, take note, rhymes with “Russian”), a former Russian mobster who doesn’t like the fact that his daughter Lanie (Laura Mennell) is marrying Stephan (Dmitry Chepovetsky), the son of his former mafia boss, Mikhail Abramov (Igor Jijikine), even though the groom-to-be seems to be on the up-and-up with no intention of following in dad’s footsteps; unfortunately, Mikhail himself doesn’t take too kindly to his own flesh and blood not joining the family business and has his would-be daughter-in-law kidnapped, sending Ruslan on an ass-kicking rescue mission. Before any of this happens (all of about six minutes into the movie, in fact), Seagal warms up by smashing a glass on a guy’s face in one bar; later, he makes short work of a thug in a track suit in the private back rooms of a strip club before moving on to the main bar area and ruining the show for everyone (at about the 50-minute mark). Seagal’s still got the moves with a knife, even if he can’t do a Russian accent to save his life; he can break a bottle on someone’s head pretty well, too.
It’s tough being the son of a gangster, especially when your pal Seth Green loses a whole bag o’ mob money and you have to go to Wibaux, Montana to find it. First born son Matty (Barry Pepper) and his cohorts, Chris (Andy Davoli) and Taylor (Vin Diesel), figure that if anyone was suddenly in possession of a lot of cash, they’d start flashing it around somewhere — maybe a place with some slots? They head for The Shamrock, a honky tonk dive bar and mini-casino where patrons hope they’ll soak in a little of that luck o’ the Irish, whether it be in games or sexual conquests; it’s also the place where the seedy owner (Kevin Gage) completely loses his mind and actually dares to spit on Vin Diesel’s jeans. It takes an insane man to do such a thing — and he’s soon a beat-to-a-pulp man on the floor. Vin delivers a speech about how being in 500 street fights makes you a “legitimate tough guy” before he starts pounding on the poor bastard’s face, a nice moment of getting to “act” before he actually acts; meanwhile, Seth Green is in a corner, firing a pistol at a taunting animatronic cowboy: “Howdy, sidewinder — take your best shot!” Another amusing portrait of small-town USA from the Hollywood movie machine; go to about 37 minutes in if you want to jump right to the Diesel-fueled rowdiness.
The Brothers MacManus (Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery) answer to a higher power in the cult vigilante thriller, The Boondock Saints, and there’s definitely a higher power at work in the bar fight (about 20 minutes in); how else can you explain a guy being able to finish his insult to a giant Russian mobster named Boris even though he gets punched in the face about halfway through telling him that his “pinko commie mother sucks so much dick, her face looks like an egg” (really, ADR department, what’s up with that)? We guess it’s only appropriate that the event in which the Brothers MacManus take the leap into becoming two-fisted (or, in this case, two-wine-bottled) warriors for the Lord would have some supernatural elements to it; the brothers look at each other knowingly, take a sip from their drinks, and it’s suddenly an all-out free-for-all of Fightin’ Irish against Russkie thugs (or, Green versus Red, if you will), complete with the old coot behind the bar shadowboxing with enthusiasm. It all ends with Boris flat on his belly Flanery setting his Russian ass on fire; don’t come ’round here no more, ya red devil.
A movie called Anger Management has to be just one big bar fight waiting to break out at any second, especially if it stars such temperamental actors as Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. And that’s the key to the actual bar fight in the movie — it’s almost a bar fight, one that looks like it’s a done deal and then takes a sharp turn into (sort of) civil conversation before anything gets broken (bones, bottles or otherwise). Sandler plays Dave Buznik, a guy who has trouble controlling his temper (yeah, the SNL alum has certainly played this kind of character before); Nicholson is Dr. Buddy Rydell (you think Sandler had anything to do with him being named “Buddy?”), the therapist who teaches him how to keep his cool through a variety of bizarre and unorthodox methods. When Dave finds out that his ex-girlfriend, Linda (Marisa Tomei), is out on a date with some new fella, he storms over to the restaurant with two porn stars (January Jones and Krista Allen) to make her jealous — though when he sees that her date is actually Dr. Buddy, things get a little tense at the bar (about an hour and 17 minutes in). You keep waiting for Sandler and Nicholson to finally go at it in this scene, and it’s kind of disappointing that they don’t — still, it’s fun to look at all of the ingredients laid out (so many shiny liquor bottles that could’ve just went flying!) for the perfect brawl that wasn’t meant to be.
We love us some Wong Kar-wai, and while Fallen Angels may not be in the same league as his best works (which happen to be In the Mood for Love and Happy Together, for the record), it’s still a fascinating film — and just about as cool as you would expect from a filmmaker who’s never seen without his Rayban sunglasses. The story (or stories, rather) of Fallen Angels was meant to be part of the writer-director’s 1994 anthology film, Chungking Express, but ended up being its own thing; we zig and zag between the journeys of a hit man (Leon Lai) who’s thinking of quitting the biz but can’t shake the romantic obsession he has with his beautiful partner/handler (Michelle Reis), and He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a mute delinquent and trickster who wanders the streets and shops of nighttime Hong Kong, getting into surreal misadventures. It’s in the latter’s story that we get one of the strangest bar fights ever filmed (it’s technically more of a “restaurant fight,” at the 54-minute mark if you want to jump right to it), in which the jealousy that He Zhiwu’s companion (Charlie Yeung) feels for an unseen romantic rival named “Blondie” manifests itself into everyone in the room suddenly just breaking into battle; it’s your typical Wong Kar-wai dreamscape, filled with a sense of mischief and a melancholy sense of humor.